“Have you any information about Syndicate payoffs in Miami?”

“Not directly. But I hate to see them get started here, Will. Let them pull one job and get away with it… and next thing the whole mob will be moving in.”

“Give it to me, Mike.”

“All right. I’ve got it pretty straight that a couple of Syndicate enforcers are in Miami on the trail of a scared little guy who ran out on a gambling debt in Chicago. Goddamn it, Will, he came to Miami because he thought this town was closed up tight and he’d be safe here.” To get under the chief’s skin, Shayne injected a note of righteous indignation into his voice that made Gentry wince. “This was after the goons splashed his young daughter with acid on a street corner in broad daylight while she was walking home from school.”

Shayne leaned forward and clenched his fist on Gentry’s desk, his eyes and voice hard. “That’s the sort of thing that’ll be making headlines in Miami if we don’t stop it fast.”

“One isolated case, Mike. You can’t make a Syndicate invasion out of that.”

“But you’ve spent years putting the fear of God into them,” Shayne reminded him harshly. “The word’s been out to stay away from Miami. What’s changed that suddenly? Why has the Syndicate decided it’s safe to send a couple of boys into your territory to do a job now?”

Chief Gentry reacted exactly as long experience had taught Shayne that he would. He snatched the cigar butt from his mouth and glared at it balefully, then flung it angrily at a spittoon in the corner.

“If you’re intimating, that we’re opening up… it’s a lie. The lid’s on just as tight as ever, Mike.”

“Prove it,” Shayne challenged wolfishly. “Stop them before they get started. You know that’s the only way to handle a grass-fire.”

“Sure I know it. And even if you are sitting there egging me on to pulling your chestnuts out of the fire for you, I’ll do it just to keep Miami clean. Who are these two characters you’re talking about?”

“Hell, you don’t expect me to provide names and complete descriptions do you? All I know is they’re here… walking the streets openly and ready to gun down this scared little citizen who thought he’d get protection by coming here.”

“If he wants protection why hasn’t he come to us?” thundered Gentry.

“He’s afraid to,” said Shayne sadly. “Living in Chicago, you know what sort of opinion he has of the police.”

“Then what can I do?”

“Pick those two goons up.” Shayne pounded the desk with his fist. “Put the fear of God in them so they’ll never come back to Miami. You’ve got a couple thousand men walking the streets, and you’ve got a pretty complete file of all the known Syndicate hoods on the Chicago payroll. Get the word out. Hell, if your men are half as efficient as I think they are, they’ll have that pair hogtied in twelve hours.”

Again, his carefully calculated blarney had exactly the effect Shayne hoped to produce in his old friend.

“Don’t worry about my men,” he growled in a mollified tone. “But what have we got to go on? We can’t go around shaking down every tourist from Illinois walking the streets.”

“I’ve got a vague description of them, and within a few hours I can probably give you more details. Take this down for a start: One is big and tough and mean-looking. I know that’s not much,” Shayne defended himself hastily as Gentry snorted, “but coupled with a description of his partner they make an ill-assorted pair that might mean something to your goon-squad. The other is thin and sorta sad… wears a black suit like a preacher.”

Will Gentry jotted down this meager information and grunted noncommittally, pressed a button on his desk and said into the intercom, “Send Jackson in.” He took a fresh cigar from the center drawer and rolled it under his nose, sniffing disdainfully, then bit one end off and put fire to it.

A young, intelligent-looking man with a balding head entered through a side door and stood quietly at attention beside his desk.

Gentry billowed out a cloud of noxious smoke and said, “You know Mike Shayne, Jackson.”

“Yes, sir.” Jackson glanced across the desk at the redhead and nodded slightly.

“He’s got word that a couple of Syndicate enforcers are in town from Chicago to do a job on a guy that ran out on a gambling debt. Here’s the only description our brilliant Shamus can give us, but he figures you’re smart enough to go through the files and get a make on them.” He handed Jackson the sheet of paper on which he had scrawled the information Sloe Burn had given Shayne about the two men who had been in the Bright Spot looking for her Freddie. “Think you can?”

“It’s pretty vague, sir.”

“Do what you can. And get out a departmental memo. Every known hood from the Midwest to be pulled in fast and grilled. Throw a charge at any one with any hint of Syndicate connections.”

“We keep a pretty close file, Chief,” Jackson began diffidently, “and I don’t recall…”

“I don’t care what you recall. Keep a closer track. If the Syndicate thinks it can send hired gunmen to Miami, it’s up to us to show them different. Get going.”

Jackson said, “Right away,” and faded out through the side door.

“Now then, Mike,” Gentry said heavily. “Give me the whole story. If you really want to protect your client, you know we’re in a position to do a hell of a lot better job of that than you are.”

“I wish it was that easy, Will,” Shayne told him honestly. “I’d put him right into your hands for protective custody if I could… even though it meant violating a confidence by doing so. All I know is what his wife told me this afternoon. His name is Renshaw and he phoned her three days ago from Miami saying he was in hiding here under the assumed name of Fred Tucker.”

He went on to give Gentry the gist of what Mrs. Renshaw had told him, holding back only the information he had received from the young dancer from the Florida Keys. In telling it, he managed to give the impression that the vague descriptions he had given Gentry had come from Renshaw’s wife, and he ended by spreading his hands wide and saying honestly, “That’s everything the woman could tell me, Will. You can see why I came to you for help.”

“You always do, don’t you?” Gentry’s good humor had returned. “How else would you collect those fat fees you’ve been banking for years?”

Shayne shook his head sadly. “I don’t see a fat fee in this one.”

“So that’s why you toss it in my lap,” Gentry contradicted himself cheerfully. Then he became businesslike again. “You got any leads at all where this Renshaw is hiding out?”

Shayne hesitated, wondering suddenly just how honest he was in stating he didn’t see any fat fee in the case. How much, actually, did he believe of Sloe Burn’s story about her Freddie Tucker who was loaded with money to the extent of proposing that they take off for some deserted island together? According to Mrs. Renshaw, her husband must be pretty well strapped; yet Sloe Burn had lightly tossed off the statement that Fred Tucker had given her a hundred dollars on occasion. There was some discrepancy here, and yet… it almost had to be the same Fred Tucker.

He told Gentry, “His wife swears that he didn’t give her a single clue over the telephone that would help locate him,” and salved his conscience for withholding the entire truth by telling himself that he was likely to learn a lot more by going around to the Bright Spot by himself than by having a squad of police officers descend on the place and start asking questions.

Oddly enough, Will Gentry himself encouraged this decision a moment later by saying reflectively, “You’ve changed, Mike.”

“In what way?”

“A few years ago,” rumbled Gentry, “you wouldn’t have been sitting in my office on your dead ass waiting for me to handle a thing like this for you. You always boasted that you had your own ways and methods for getting information or locating a missing man in the city, and you laughed at me because I had to go by the rules and stay within legal limits.”

“I was younger then,” Shayne parried uncomfortably.

“Nuts. You were hungrier.” Gentry regarded him benevolently over the smouldering end of his cigar. “I had more respect for you then, goddamit. You weren’t afraid to stick your neck out, and by God, you did get results with your methods that I couldn’t get with all the manpower I had under me. You’re worried about this little Renshaw getting gunned down by a couple of Chicago hoods, but you aren’t worried enough, by God, to…”

He was interrupted by a buzz from his intercom. He glanced at a lighted button and pressed a switch and said, “Yeh, Jackson?”

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